In 2008, candidate Barack Obama was the ultimate idealist. Four years later, the president has learned a cold hard truth – you cannot afford to be a liberal idealist when you’re President of the United States.
This realization impelled Obama to quietly urge Congress to extend President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program last month, a program that he tried to do away with as Senator. In a 73-23 vote, Obama got his way, and the Bush era policies live on.
This tacit stamp of approval on one of Bush’s most criticized policies went largely unnoticed, but it merits discussion since it is emblematic of how the Democrats operate. They are quick to condemn Republican policies until the outcome of those policies lies squarely with them.
This explains Obama’s rash 180 on warrantless wiretapping. In 2007, candidate Obama said this: “I will provide our intelligence and law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to track and take out the terrorists without undermining our Constitution and our freedom. That means no more illegal wiretapping of American citizens… We will again set an example for the world that the law is not subject to the whim of stubborn rulers.”
But it appears that the law is, in fact, subject to this stubborn ruler who issued the following order to Congress in September: “The Administration strongly supports H.R. 5949… [which] allows the Intelligence Community to collect vital foreign intelligence information about international terrorists and other important targets overseas…” In other words, “Please reauthorize wiretapping.”
This, however, should come as no surprise since national security policy reversals are commonplace in the Obama administration. In 2009, Obama vowed to close Guantanamo Bay within one year. The prison is still open today. In 2008, the Democratic platform vowed to end racial profiling, but Obama chose to retain Bush’s FBI guidelines on the role of race and religion in investigations. And, Obama, the same man who was a staunch defender of terrorists’ rights, even started his own targeted killing program aimed at those same terrorists! While many conservatives staunchly advocate all of these reversals in policy, we shouldn’t ignore the fact that they are extremely hypocritical in nature.
What a momentous change for a staunch ideologue. In 2008, we heard the soaring rhetoric of a man straight out of Harvard Yard. Today, we see the actions of a man struck by realism.
It’s easy to be an idealist when you’re not constrained by reality. But leaving the all talk, no action campaign trail and venturing into the real world of governing is the quickest way for an idealist to become a realist. Obama, admittedly or not, can attest to that.